Two op-eds in yesterday's Globe and Mail testified to a quiet but significant shift which is occurring in Canadian politics. Preston Manning reported on a post-election survey which suggests Canadian confidence in government is decreasing, although this is not necessarily translating into an anti-government sentiment.
[A] strong majority of Canadians would prefer governments to "help me do it, rather than do it for me," "provide information to help me decide, rather than deciding for me," "treat me as an individual rather than as a member of a group," and "focus more on creating equality of opportunity than on equality of results."
Immediately below Manning's piece was a piece by Lawrence Martin which suggested that the lowering of expectations by Prime Minister Harper is a conscious part of his survival strategy. It may result in boring throne speeches and predictable budgets—"the dullest of times" for political columnists like Martin—but he suggests it is creating a "stacked deck" for a longish Conservative rule with no new government programs of big visions but rather just "tweaking what we have."
Let's assume both are correct. Canadian expectations of government are changing so that they are looking for fewer grandiose programs and will increasingly rely on other institutions of society. The current government is implementing change in a way that doesn't attract headlines, and is defined not by grandiose vision changes, but rather incremental tweakings that seem boring and under the radar screen.
Seems to me like a happy convergence for those of us who believe a renewed social architecture is necessary—one that includes a more robust public role for the many institutions that complement government and the markets. In fact, this would ironically be one of the more significant shifts in Canadian politics in a generation.
Last year's British election was focused around a significant debate on these questions, prompted by the Conservatives' "Big Society" platform. The debate there continues with vocal promoters and opposition. Perhaps a slow growth implementation strategy may just be the Canadian way.